Lance Corporals' Joe Yalvac and Martin Cochrane, both Networks Engineers based at 3 (UK) Division Signal Regiment in Bulford, Wiltshire are currently deployed to Kenya in support of the permanent British Army presence. Within hours of arriving for the start of their tour, the level of poverty and the poor living conditions of the children in and around Nanyuki became obvious.
The two soldiers felt they could offer their own time, effort and resources during their tour. After approching their Chain of Command, they set up the charitable organization Soldiers4Souls. In a very short time, they had received official support and established a plan of work.
The aim of the charity is to create permanent infrastructure for soldiers to provide humanitarian aid. Soldiers4Souls will be handed over to the next Communication Information Systems (CIS) team to “carry the torch” as each tour finishes. This will not only benefit the local community but also enable Service Personnel to work with local people. Sharing new skills provides an opportunity to leave a long-lasting positive legacy of their time in Kenya. As each CIS department is made up of staff from across the Royal Signals, it will give a sense of Corps identity to those there.
There are a number of projects ongoing in Nanyuki where the main British Army camp is located. These include the Bring A Smile Care Centre, Nanyuki School and the Help a Home Orphanage. The current construction priority is the orphanage which is in the worst state of repair. The organisation will also provide clothing, medical supplies, food, livestock and clean water to all of these projects with Nanyuki School being a high priority.
LCpl Joe Yalvac says, ‘I am young, I am able bodied but when I am old and grey and my grandchild asks me “What did I do with my time in the Army?” I can at least proudly say, I made a difference’. When speaking to Joe his enthusiasm is infectious and it is clear he wants to make every second of his deployment count to the wider community.
LCpl Martin Cochrane, a father of five from Carlisle, said, ‘If there has ever been a time in my life where I have felt my moral compass pull me to aid others, it's right now, and it is right here in Kenya.’
Both soldiers have managed to recruit a team of 22 soldiers now to assist with their vision and hopefully this will grow to include many more of the permanent and temporary staff that work in BATUK.